Some are more equal than others, the saying goes — but in Mumbai, bureaucrats are a little more than mere equals, as we found out. When we visited four different areas over the last week, we found hawkers conspicuous by their absence around government quarters at Andheri, Bandra, Mohammed Ali Road and Churchgate, while adjacent areas were bursting at the seams with hawkers.
For instance, Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh’s bungalow, Kruttika, located next to Bandra police quarters, has no hawkers around it at all. But right next door, Linking Road is still swarming with hawkers.
When this was pointed out to him, Singh said, “There are some police colonies in the city where there is indeed a hawkers’ problem. Ultimately the administration has to decide on a hawkers policy.” Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte remained unavailable for comment.
One of the nerve centres of the city, Churchgate has several government offices and courts. Among its residential complexes is the tony Yashodhan Apartments, next to Marine Drive police station. Several judges and senior bureaucrats call this building home. Just a stone’s throw away is KC College, around which many food stalls are scattered.
On our walk down from Churchgate station on the road towards Oxford bookshop, the footpaths are teeming with hawkers, selling everything from clothing, to mobile covers, newspapers, ragda patties, chaat and Chinese food. As we get closer to Dinshaw Wacha road, we notice hawkers reducing in number. Keep in mind, this is an arterial road crowded with office-goers and college students — all potential hawker customers.
At the crossroad, outside Churchgate Restaurant and Stores, a solitary newspaper vendor is all we see. All of Dinshaw Wacha road is free of hawkers, save for two authorised stalls outside the entrance of Cricket Club of India. The rest of the road is empty.
Mandvi Police Quarters, Pydhonie
The Pydhonie area under the JJ Flyover on Mohammed Ali road is reputed for its food and clothing shops. The road has rush hour traffic all day and night. Hawkers occupied nearly all footpaths. To top it all, cars, tempos and two wheelers are haphazardly, often illegally parked everywhere.
On the same road opposite Mandvi post office are the Mandvi police quarters in a lane off Mohammed Ali road. Not even a single hawker can be seen on the footpath, not even on the road. One of the hawkers on condition of anonymity said, “The police and BMC do not allow any of us near the colony.”
Where the compound wall of the police quarters ends, hawkers crowd both the footpaths. Three buildings away from the police quarters, we witness a police crackdown against hawkers on the road. Yet just a stones-throw away, the roads and footpaths surrounding the colony are teeming with hawkers.
Police Colony, Bandra
Injustice is most apparent in the suburb of Bandra, where till recently, hawkers proved to be a serious menace. But in the post-Dhoble era, a newly invigorated police force began a relentless crackdown, and has at least partly succeeded in keeping the hawkers at bay. Still, Hill Road remains a shopper’s — and hawker’s — paradise.
Waterfield Road, which connects Hill Road with shopping hub Linking Road, is home for Mumbai Police Commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh. Next to his bungalow Kruttika, is the Bandra Police Colony, where hundreds of lower-rung policemen live.
Here too the footpath opposite Globus is occupied by hawkers, till just before the compound wall of Singh’s home. Just two authorised stalls interrupt the ‘hawker-free zone’ between Kruttika and the police colony gate. Beyond this, the footpath is deserted.
Police Quarters, Andheri
Moving in and out of Andheri station is an ordeal — especially during peak hours, thanks to overcrowding, traffic and the terminally under-construction VAG metro. Hawkers are everywhere. We head straight to the police quarters outside Andheri (E) station.
Either side of the police quarters and even footpaths are hawker-free. Nor do we see a single banner or board. However, just two buildings away, we catch sight of the first of the hawkers, and then many more who have put up illegal stalls, making life tough for pedestrians.
The quarters are situated in the centre, with two main railway bridges opening on both sides of the road and a bus depot on one side. Local resident and railway commuter Jitendra Singh tells us, “The problem is such that now even in the mornings and late nights it is difficult to walk.”
There are fruit vendors, sellers of pirated CDs and more here. Yet the area around the police quarters is peaceful. Not even cars or autos are stationed near the entry gates.
What we looked for
- An area with government quarters or colonies
- The presence of a commercial potential in the area, which is not exploited
- Adjacent residential or commercial areas that have a sizeable hawker presence